Dr. Jason Shepherd received an R01 through the National Institute of Mental Health to investigate the mechanism of Arc dependent synaptic plasticity.
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Congratulations to Kyle Jenks for receiving a NRSA award from the National Institute of Mental Health!
I discuss the focus of our work and how it relates to neurological diseases.
Our Neuron paper (paper link) describing a new GCaMP reporter mouse (a transgenic mouse that expresses a protein that can sense levels of calcium in cells) is out today! This was a great collaborative project between multiple Utah neuroscience labs. Exemplary of the close knit community here!
Nature published an interesting supplement (Supplement) that looks at how Science and scientists in New Zealand/Australia are evaluated and funded. I find this an interesting topic. Should there be “performance” outcomes like in industry? Should individual scientists be funded on their track record or based on individual projects? The NIH in the US is debating the same issues (NIH Funding). HHMI, for example, has been hugely successful and funds individuals not projects.
This article highlights the difficulty in studying autism but gives some hope to parents. It also shows how much more research needs to be done! Some kids seem to reverse their autism symptoms, behavioural therapy seems to help but is not necessary in some cases. Why some kids can make amazing progress and others not is unclear but is probably due to the distinct genetic underpinnings that cause such a wide spectrums of phenotypes.
Congrats to Kyle who was awarded one of three T32 NIH training grant slots from the Utah neuroscience program!
Traditionally scientists mostly use one sex for their studies. Especially in neuroscience where behavioural differences may prove confounding. While I think this is a good idea, we could certainly be more efficient when using our animal colonies if we did discard females, it will certainly mean that monitoring whether there are sex differences in a study will make it a longer one.
The Utah School of Medicine recently hosted a symposium highlighting new faculty who have won national competitive awards. The mini talks revolved around the human element of science as well as a primer on their exciting research.
Here’s a youtube video with highlights of these talks: Vitae Presentations
The number of students and postdocs in Science has increased every decade but the number of tenure-track positions have not. This current bottle neck is well represented by this graphic: http://www.ascb.org/ascbpost/index.php/compass-points/item/285-where-will-a-biology-phd-take-you
An open discussion on this issue is sorely needed.
This month three new young scientists joined the Shepherd lab:
Cameron Day will be joining as a postdoctoral associate, he recently graduated with his PhD from the Neuroscience program at UTSW.
Andrew Taibi, will be joining as a new Ph.D. student.
Kyle Jenks, will be joining as a new Ph.D. student.
Might be the first time C-SPAN was worth a real laugh! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHqx3-mfHAY
This could be a game changer for the scientific community, so it will be interesting to see how it’s implemented and received!
The National Institute of Mental Health is one of the largest funders of Neuroscience research in the world. This is an interesting article on how NIMH director Thomas Insel has single handedly turned the ship towards funding more mechanistic/biological neuroscience, which as a basic neuroscientist…I approve!
Today the Shepherd lab participated in a Reddit AMA (ask me anything) session:
It was a great experience with over 1000 comments/questions asked…awesome to get so much interest but humbling to see so many people affected by mental illness and other neurological disorders.
The internet and social media has revolutionized how information is disseminated in society. Scientists have started to use social media to help talk about their work and make it more accessible to the general public. REDDIT is one of the most popular sites, especially those under 30. The Shepherd lab will be involved in a new initiative on REDDIT that aims to help the public interface with scientists. See http://www.reddit.com/r/science/comments/1vqimu/announcing_the_rscience_ama_series/
We will be hosting an AMA next Thursday Feb 6th 12 noon EST.
Two Nature papers that came online today implicate rare mutations in Arc in human patients with Schizophrenia. This has exciting implications for our work in understanding Arc’s role in neuronal function, as our work may now help shed light on this common psychiatric disorder!
Links to the papers, if anyone is interested but doesn’t have access let us know:
Great story about a neuroscientist’s personal encounter with his own genetic history and how that explains much of his behaviour but also highlights how genes aren’t everything. This interplay between environment and genes is precisely the plasticity my lab is trying to uncover! http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/01/life-as-a-nonviolent-psychopath/282271/
New study (http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/nn.3623.html) shows that Caffeine can boost the consolidation of memory. So drinking that coffee before/during your lecture is a good idea!
Congrats to Elissa for being awarded a NIH T32 Developmental Biology Training Grant postdoctoral fellowship!